October 29, 2018
Most fall-planted chrysanthemums don't make it through the winter around here, but there are some hardy mums that are perennial in zones 5-9 if planted in the spring so their roots can get well established before winter. Mulching well, planting in an area with good winter drainage and waiting to cut back dead foliage until spring also increase the chance of mums surviving cold winters. Last spring I planted several types of hardy mums in my garden. Above is 'Jessica Louise,' which is still blooming in my yard despite many frosts in the past month. *In my original post I mixed up some of the mum names. I think I've got them correct now.
Earlier blooms on 'Jessica Louise' were this lighter shade of peachy-pink. I've noticed that color tends to deepen on chrysanthemum flowers opening in color temperatures, though the color often fades as the flower ages.
Last week I was surprised to find enough flowers to create this arrangement. My garden looks very bare overall, with many perennials cut to the ground. But the mums, violet asters, 'Chantilly' light salmon snapdragons and a few 'Princess Alexandra of Kent' roses were still in bloom.
The little rusty-red mums are 'Fireglow,' and the coral ones are 'Whippoorwill.' I'm excited to grow some large-flowered mums next year for arrangements. Many of the showiest mums aren't hardy here, but there are a few selections available from online companies.
Here is 'Fireglow' in the garden. It didn't get full sun so it leaned toward the light. Next spring I'm planning to transplant it to a better spot.
Despite arriving this spring as a tiny plant in a 6" pot, 'Whippoorwill' grew to 3 feet tall and wide by fall. It was planted in good soil with plenty of water and nearly full sun, which are ideal conditions for mums. The mums I planted in mostly shade didn't grow well (especially since the slugs devoured them, but I've already bought bags of iron phosphate to spread next spring to reduce my slug problem). Next spring I'm going to transplant poor slug-eaten 'Pink Crest' and purple 'Medicine Bow' to sunnier spots.
The vase above includes coral-peach 'Coral Cavalier' and purple 'Medicine Bow.' which surprised me when it opened more buds after the tree leaves dropped and it received more sun. Bluestone Perennials has a large selection of hardy mums, and I'm happily planning which ones to order next: creamy 'French Vanilla,' salmon-peach 'Homecoming,' golden-orange 'Ticonderoga,' amber 'Cheerleader,' fuchsia 'Debutante,' shell pink 'Helen Mae,' golden lavender 'Fall Charm,' 'Red Volunteer,' and white 'Nor'easter.'
'Mickey' was a lovely bloomer with typical orange-red fall color. Here are the first flowers in September.
By the end of October, after numerous frosts, 'Mickey' looked a little worse for wear but still sported good color. At the right is a non-hardy mum whose name escapes me.
The past few years have found me beefing up my fall garden with more dahlias, sedums, asters, hardy mums and Japanese anemones. Last week I planted one 'Honorine Jobert' anemone (the classic tall single white), three 'Lucky Charm' anemones (compact purple foliage in spring and dark pink single flowers in fall); and three 'Pocahontas' anemones (bubble gum pink double flowers, compact, and supposed to stay in a clump instead of running all over). I already grow light pink single Anemone robustissima, whose spreading is a pain to contain but it's so pretty that I keep it. It's delight to keep planting new perennials and imagine how much prettier the garden will be next year.
October 22, 2018
Autumn is moving quickly this year, with our first frost occurring October 2. My family has been helping to clean up but there's more to do each day as perennials give out and leaves continue to fall. The photo above was taken a few weeks ago as the 'Shademaster' honey locusts trees turned yellow, then golden, then orange, and then the leaves fell.
A month ago the white garden was full of white flowers, green leaves and a few 'Karma Choc' dahlia blooms.
Now that area of the garden is going bare quickly. The 'Spring Snow' crabapple trees lost their leaves earlier than usual this year. Leaving their fallen leaves to rot in place last year led to a bad fungal scab problem this year. They were dropping spotted leaves throughout the season, though our dry summers meant they didn't completely defoliate in midsummer as can happen in rainy, humid climates. This year we're raking and removing all the SS leaves and I'll spray the ground and trunks with copper in the spring to reduce the scab problem. Live and learn. The honey locust and 'Royal Raindrops' crabapple leaves will be left, though.
Here is the Northwest corner a month ago, with the RR crabapples still sporting pretty maroon leaves.
Now the area features orange tones on the crabapple leaves and fewer flowers along the path. Last week I sprayed beneficial nematodes around the lilacs, peonies and roses in my backyard in hopes of controlling my root weevil problem. I thought the chewed-up leaves were from carpenter bees or grasshoppers, but a mention of root weevils by one of the employees at a nearby nursery led to the realization that I had a big problem throughout much of my garden. The adults don't hurt the plants too much by nibbling on leaves, but the larvae eating the roots can cause great harm. I think that's why one of my 'Blue Angel' hostas grew much smaller this year than last year.
The 'Caesar's Brother' Siberian iris leaves collapse in fall despite the help of wire supports. They'll turn completely yellow and then golden-orange if we don't drop too far below freezing in the next weeks.
Last month the west garden was still cheerful and full. Tiny starts of 'Dazzleberry' sedum were planted along the edges of the path and finally matured enough to make a nice show this season. You can only see a couple of them from this angle, but the blue-violet leaves, deep pink blooms, and rusty seedheads have added a lot of color and interest. I'm slowly joining the sedum fan club. In addition to 'Dazzleberry,' my collection now includes 'Angelina,' 'Matrona,' 'Lemonjade,' 'Cherry Tart,' 'Blue Spruce,' and 'Blue Pearl.'
Now the few remaining plants in the west garden are looking a little lonely and a trellis is begging to be straightened. I know some gardeners leave dead perennials clumps throughout the winter and enjoy the textures, but we usually get enough snow to smash them flat. And spring is always busy enough without adding fall chores to the list, so we're getting as much cleanup done as possible this month.
These cute autumn crocus flowers are reminders that spring will come eventually. I've started planting bulbs but still have more to finish after my last order arrives in the mail. This fall I'm adding 15 lilies, 30 alliums, 166 tulips, and about 50 other bulbs. I've also planted 3 'Chocolate Shogun' astilbes, 8 'Prairie Dusk' penstemons, 6 'Moody Blues' and 2 'Hocus Pocus' veronicas, 3 'Harlem' poppies, 2 'Berry Awesome' hardy hibiscuses, a 'Lemon Chiffon' herbaceous peony, 2 'Mini Mauvette' hydrangeas and a 'Little Quickfire' hydrangea. I thought my garden was mostly full but apparently there's still plenty of room!
October 18, 2018
Last month I created this moody fall vase with the flowers blooming in my September garden. Like most gardeners, I focused first on creating a flower-filled June garden, but I've been expanding my palette to have good cutting flowers earlier and later in the year.
The main players in this vase are Karma Choc dahlias and a stem from my new Cape Lookout hydrangea, which opens white and ages to green and then pink. It's really lovely, and I'm hoping this hardier version will bloom next year for me despite the early fall and late spring frosts in our valley. After babying my Let's Dance Big Easy hydrangeas this year with plenty of water and fertlizer, I finally had one covered in buds . . . but it frosted before they could open.
Karma Choc dahlias are delicious to the eye, aren't they? These read as black in some lights and were planted in my black and white garden section. Their dark foliage was a plus. A stem of Magical Desire hypericum berries at the left were peach last month then ripened to this interesting plum/black color. I also included some stems from my 'Royal Raindrops' crabapple tree with their tiny red crabapples.
Foliage is an important part of this vase, including red/maroon coleus stems from a front porch pot, 'Royal Purple' smoke bush, 'Chocoholic' actaea, and draping variegated vina.
I carefully selected some unopened 'Chocoholic' actaea buds for their texture. These have such a strong fragrance when open that they might overpower some noses inside, though they're lovely to sniff when outside.
I really enjoyed growing several types of dahlia this year, although they often grew taller than I expected and looked odd in the landscape. After recent frosts turned the foliage to mush, I started digging my dahlia tubers to store for next year. But I don't have an ideal place for them. My basement is too warm, my fridge is too cold, and my garage fluctuates too much in temperature from warm car engines (it's pretty hot in there this week, but by January it might freeze at night). I think I'm just going to let mine rot in the ground and buy more tubers next spring. Swan Island has the largest selection of dahlias I've seen, Floret Farm has the prettiest pictures, and Brent and Becky's Bulbs has the best prices on their small selection.